Race, Inhumanity, And Education: Whoopi Goldberg’s Holocaust Comments

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This past week, The View’s Whoopi Goldberg, known as a famous actress to many Americans and worldwide citizens, was suspended from talk show The View over her Holocaust statements about the Jews and Hitler and his crimes against humanity.

The famed actress misspoke when she made comments about the Jewish people and why they were made victims in the Holocaust. “Let’s be truthful about it because Holocaust isn’t about race. It’s not about race. It’s not about race. It’s about man’s inhumanity to man,” Goldberg said on the popular talk show on Monday.

When co-host Ana Navarro responded that the Holocaust was about white supremacy against Jews, Goldberg retorted, “But these are two white groups of people! The minute you turn it into race it goes down this alley. Let’s talk about it for what it is. It’s how people treat each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or white, Jews, it’s each other.”

And yet, Whoopi finds herself suspended from the show for two weeks. “Effective immediately, I am suspending Whoopi Goldberg for two weeks for her wrong and hurtful comments. While Whoopi has apologized, I’ve asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments. The entire ABC News organization stands in solidarity with our Jewish colleagues, friends, family, and communities,” said ABC News President Kim Godwin in a note to staff Tuesday evening.

So, the question comes down to, is Whoopi wrong for her comments against the Jews? Is she right?

To find out where one can stand either way, it’s important to take a good look at her comments.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

the holocaust is about race

Hitler’s father was anti-semitic; hitler was raised in a racist culture

Whoopi Goldberg misspoke when she said that the Holocaust isn’t about race. It is. Think about it: Adolf Hitler was a German European whose own father was anti-Semitic (a Jew-hater). These are the words from a recent book published on Alois Hitler (the elder Hitler, Adolf’s father) titled Hitler’s Father: How The Son Became a Dictator by Austrian historian Roman Sandgruber. According to Sandgruber, Hitler was raised anti-Semitic by his father and “joined an anti-Semitic club two months after he arrived in Vienna in 1907” (a direct quote from Business Insider).

Sandgruber’s research is groundbreaking because of the 31 letters written by Alois Hitler to an Austrian farm owner he purchased a farm from, but the sentiment isn’t groundbreaking. I learned the same back in 2005 and 2006 at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when I took a seminar that year titled “Hitler and the Holocaust.” The letters are new, but Alois Hitler’s anti-Semitic views have been commonly believed for decades.

To be sure, this isn’t necessarily conclusive evidence that Hitler was anti-Semitic, but every child is influenced by the views of their parents. With anti-Semitic influence within his household, it was as possible for Hitler to be anti-Semitic as it is for a child of a racist to become a racist. You can’t say that next-generation racism isn’t possible in an atmosphere of racism.

hitler’s own anti-semitic comments

“Like father, like son” many say, but the proof is in what the son actually says. So with that said, we can’t just assume Hitler was racist because his father was. To assume that would be tantamount to assuming that someone becomes a bad father because their father was a bad father. There’s no causation involved (though there is influence in such a direction).

So with that said, it’s important to note that Hitler made his own anti-Semitic statements against the Jews. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (and I quote), “On September 16, 1919, Hitler issues his first written comment on the so-called Jewish Question. In the statement, he defined the Jews as a race…characterized the effect of a Jewish presence as a ‘race-tuberculosis of the peoples,’ and identified the initial goal of a German government to be discriminatory legislation against the Jews. The ‘ultimate goal must definitely be the removal of the Jews altogether,” Hitler said.

I placed certain words of the quote in bold font, but those are key statements about how Hitler felt about the Jews. Whatever his views of them were in his earlier years, whatever influence Alois Hitler had on his son, there’s no denying that when it came time for Hitler to execute his plan, he was definitely anti-Semitic and racist against a people he knew next to nothing about.

If you look back at Hitler’s statement above and the quote from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, it’s clear: “he defined the Jews as a race.” Hitler believed the Jews to be a separate race of people. I also believe that Jewishness is not just about religion but also about a particular race.

If you ever do DNA tests to find family, ask yourself: if the Jews aren’t a particular race, how can we distinguish the DNA of Jews as opposed to other races? How can we distinguish the Jew from Africans, or Jews from Europeans? Even with the Jews being classified as “Ashkenazi Jewish” in formal DNA labels, not every European bears Jewish ancestry or DNA. So with that said, the distinctions tell us that differences exist. Colors on the rainbow can be distinguished; races are certainly no exception.

The Encyclopedia Britannica also provides other statements of Adolf Hitler from his book, Mein Kampf (German title meaning “My Struggle”). In his book, Hitler said that the Aryan race was the “genius” race. “All who are not of a good race are chaff,” Hitler said, the word “chaff” referring to the Bible’s definition of wicked people. In Psalm 1, for example, King David said that “the wicked are like the chaff which the wind drives away,” also describing the chaff as “ungodly” (Psalm 1:4).

What did Hitler mean by “a good race”? He meant that in his mind, there are distinctions of races and some races are superior to others. So see, even in his distinction of races, Hitler believed there is a hierarchy of races and thus, a hierarchy of humanity where some humans are superior to others. Is this not textbook racism?

So Hitler used biblical allusions to refer to the elimination of the Jewish people. He also said that he was “fighting for the good Lord’s way.” No surprises there, unfortunately; European slaveowners also used the Bible to justify the slavery of Africans. In his speech at Reichstag in 1936, Hitler said that “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord’s work.” He claimed his racism and his extermination of the race that bore his anger was fueling a divine mission. He thought his racism and his racist exterminations were blessed.

Hitler also said that Germans should concern themselves with “not merely the breeding of dogs, horses, and cats but also with care for the purity of their own blood.” Why did the purity of the Aryan race matter to Hitler? Because he didn’t want to see Aryans and Jews intermarry. To him, intermarriage and procreation between the races would mix them and thus, “water down” the pure Aryan race.

In Mein Kampf, Volume 1, Chapter 8, Hitler said “what we have to fight for is the necessary security for the existence and increase of our race and people…and the maintenance of our racial stock unmixed,” saying that the Aryan race “may be enabled to fulfill the mission assigned to it by the Creator.” “The increase of our race” and “the maintenance of our racial stock unmixed” are clear statements about maintaining the separation of the races and the increase of his race, in particular.

In Volume 2 Chapter 2 of his work, Hitler mentions “the admonition finally to put an end to the constant and continuous original sin of racial poisoning.” To Hitler, racial mixing and inbreeding was “an original sin” that needed to be renounced and denied. How are his anti-Semitic comments not about race?

Why wouldn’t Hitler want the Jews and Aryans to marry? He didn’t think that Jews and Aryans were equal but that Aryans are superior to Jews. Again, this is textbook racism when someone doesn’t think the races should marry because they are distinct and “should remain so.”

As seen from Hitler’s quotes above, “race” and “racial” were terms Hitler discussed often. Anyone who mentions race that much is consumed with it. Those words are the expressions of a racist. And Hitler was a racist.

Jews are not just fair-skinned, but come in all skin tones

Sure, Whoopi’s comments about the Holocaust were wrong. To be sure, racism and extermination of a race are crimes against humanity and thus, inhumane, but the Holocaust was specifically about race. Hitler’s comments above bear witness to racism as the motive for his extermination of 6 million Jews. Racism is a type of inhumanity, but so is stealing. And yet, theft of personal property and the taking of a person’s life (homicide) are different degrees of inhumanity.

You can take someone’s property (We do not condone theft or robbery of any kind) and not harm a hair on their head; taking someone’s life means robbing them of their very existence. Homicide is a far more tragic crime than theft. With that being said, there are varying degrees of inhumanity; you can’t pin it down to one concept and disregard race when the crime itself (in this case, the Holocaust) was racially motivated.

But Whoopi’s comments didn’t just stop with race; she also said that the Holocaust involved “two different groups of white people,” in a response to fellow co-host Ana Navarro.

And yet, Whoopi’s comment about Jews being “white people” just isn’t true.

Jews, like Asians and even Europeans, come in varying shades and skin tones. I know Europeans who have an olive skin tone. From looking at them from afar, you’d think they were Hispanic — that is, until they turn up 100% European in a DNA or Ancestry test. And yes, having ancestry from Spain is European ancestry because Spain is in Europe — Spanish people are of a different skin tone than a large number of Europeans. I know European friends who are olive-skinned (darker-skinned than I am), yet they have more European ancestry than me and at least 1 more European grandparent than I do.

When Whoopi says that Jews are “white people,” she couldn’t be more wrong.

The reason? Jews, like Asians and Europeans, come in all shades and skin tones. Whoopi hasn’t considered that Jews are characterized as “Middle Eastern.” Middle Eastern skin tones are anything but European, honestly. They are more brown-skinned and dark-skinned (and olive-toned) than anything else. I think of Middle Easterners the same way I think of Asians: they come in various brown shades and skin tones. Asians, whom we call Native Americans, do as well. I’m double Native American and my skin tone is more reflective of Europeans than Africans; some Native American cousins I have are darker-skinned than me, some more olive-skinned, and others that are even more fairer-skinned than I am.

Then, there are also darker-skinned Jews such as Ethiopian Jews, for example. What Whoopi may not know is that, according to Zephaniah 3:10, Jews would come from as far as Ethiopia back to the land of Israel. “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my supplicants, the daughters of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering.” It has been said by biblical scholars that this prophecy dates to around 630 B.C.E. In any case, it shows that there is a Jewish presence in Africa. So with that said, it isn’t shocking to find Ethiopian Jews living in Africa. But these Jews are of mixed African/Jewish ancestry and race, which means that at least some will have darker skin than many Jews with strictly Middle Eastern ties.

As of three months ago, there were at least 140,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel. The Israeli Government is allowing “several thousand Ethiopian Jews” living in Ethiopia to return to Israel. The figure is identified at 3,000, with some 6,000 left behind still in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Jews are just one type of dark-skinned Jews, though there are plenty of Jews who, having one African parent, could very well have dark skin, too. So when Whoopi Goldberg said that Jews are white people and that the Holocaust is about two groups of white people, she not only misspoke — she was also erroneous in her statement. Not all Jews have fair skin, in the same way that not all Europeans or Native Americans have fair skin.

Knowlege is power: conclusion

Whoopi Goldberg wasn’t entirely wrong in her statement about the Holocaust. It was ultimately about inhumanity to a group of people. But she was wrong to just cast a blanket inhumanity charge over it because for Hitler, the perpetrator, the tragic mass homicide was all about race and racism. For Hitler, the Aryan race was a superior race, the Jews inferior. Hitler went so far as to say that fighting against the Jews would be a “bloody process,” referring to the bloodbath he would cast on the Jewish people before it would all be over.

Racism is a particular point of interest for the world because it says that humanity is not equal, that all humans are not equal. Racism says that some humans are superior to others and some humans are inferior to others. Racism assumes that some humans are beneath others and therefore, aren’t truly human. And when we apply this mindset, we can see why slavery as an institution thrived for over 200 years in the US. It assumed that Africans were not humans, but instead, chattel or property.

As shocking as it may be to read, Hitler took his racism to its tragic and evil logical conclusion when he ordered the killing of 6 million Jews for no reason other than their race, the fact they were Jewish. When you assume that some people are not equal to others, you will assume they are property; and when you assume that they are property, you will assume that you can dispose of them as you please. Hitler took the lives of 6 million Jews in the end because he reasoned that, if they weren’t human, why let them live? Sadly, it’s what happens when racism is allowed to thrive without being challenged.

The saddest part of all is that he believed he was doing it for the Good Lord’s way. I don’t know what possessed him to think it was okay, or that it was a godly thing to do, but we know God didn’t approve of Hitler’s homicidal actions. The Lord who gave human life has said, “Thou shalt not commit murder” in Exodus 20. All humanity is subject to God’s law. Hitler doesn’t get a special exemption pass.

Whoopi’s 2-week suspension gives her some measure of time to think about the words she said, the inaccuracy of them, and the hurt and pain her words have caused. And I hope that, when it’s all over, she receives some education about the Holocaust, too. Had someone ever said that slavery was only about inhumanity and not “race,” she would have been furious and upset.

Surely, then, she can understand how Jews must feel right now.